Victim identified in deadly fuel tanker rollover

Booms deployed in water to contain fuel runoff
Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 11:29 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2023 at 11:28 AM EDT
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GROTON, CT (WFSB) - A deadly fuel tanker rollover and fire at one point closed both sides of Interstate 95 in Groton.

According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, crews and contractors worked through the night to remove damaged fencing and railing and replace those materials.

As of 11:10 AM on Saturday, additional travel lanes have opened on the Gold Star Bridge I-95 Southbound.

Additionally, the on-ramp from Bridge Street in Groton has re-opened as one lane.

The acceleration lane, shoulder, and pedestrian crossing will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

New London Mayor Michael Passero confirmed that one person was killed.

State Police say a 2006 Toyota Avalon was traveling on Interstate 95 South in the right lane when they sustained a tire failure.

“Following the tire failure, the Toyota Avalon traveled from the right lane, across the left acceleration lane, and into the right acceleration lane for the Bridge Street entrance ramp,” State Police said.

The Toyota then came to a stop in the right acceleration lane on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge.

At this time, the fuel tanker, a 2001 Kenworth T300, which was carrying home heating oil, was traveling in the right acceleration lane.

The tanker rear-ended the Toyota and began to roll, catching on fire.

“The post-collision fire engulfed the immediate area to include both vehicles and portions of the Gold Star Bridge.” police said.

2,200 gallons of home heating fuel fell into the Thames River.

The operator of the fuel tanker, identified as 43-year-old Wallace Joseph Fauquet the 3rd, sustained fatal injuries.

The occupants of the Toyota Avalon sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

An off-duty officer from New London helped save the passengers in the Toyota.

“She was screaming hysterically ‘my father, my father, get my father’ I literally looked at him, he wasn’t talking at the time, he wasn’t responsive, so I went to the other side, the driver side, he was trapped so I couldn’t get in,” said Lt. Cornelius Rodgers. “As I saw the flames getting closer I decided the best course of action was to extract him from the vehicle.”

State police and Gov. Ned Lamont planned a news briefing for 3 p.m. on Friday to talk about the crash. They were joined by local and state officials. Stream it live below:

The Department of Transportation had the closure between exits 86 and 84. The northbound side has since reopened. The left two lanes on the southbound side are now open.

The right two lanes are still closed but it was determined there was no damage to the steel structure of the bridge.

State police said other injuries were not known.

State police said the Gold Star Bridge was initially shut down for an “active fire”

Troopers also said fire was confirmed on buildings below the bridge.

Those fires have since been extinguished, according to Groton’s mayor.

Channel 3 viewers have been sending in photos.

Julie Spears showed Eyewitness News a photo of fire one on of the pillars under the bridge around 11:20 a.m.

Fire extended to under the Gold Star Bridge following a tanker rollover on April 21.
Fire extended to under the Gold Star Bridge following a tanker rollover on April 21.(Julie Spears / iWitness)

Readers of Channel 3′s partners The Day posted videos of the fire as well.

Fire officials said they had to deploy booms in the water to contain fuel runoff from the fire.

The all day traffic troubles caused headaches for many traveling in the area.

“Detours after detours, okay. It’s, I don’t know... can it get any worse than this?,” asked Pat Lewis, North Attleboro, MA.

What usually takes 15 minutes took Ruth Hyde 4 hours and 15 minutes to go 6 miles.

“I’m 84 years old and it’s the worst traffic jam I have ever been in,” said Ruth.